A Brief Review of Ron Hansen’s novel
by Chris Smith
Ron Hansen’s Exiles is a superbly written novel, one of the best that I have read in a long time; although frankly I’m pretty picky about the novels I read and don’t actually read that many. The storyline of this novel follows the life of the nineteenth century Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, as he is inspired by the story of the sinking of a German oceanliner (and particularly that of five nuns on board) to give up his self-imposed “exile” from writing poetry and to pen the epic poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland.” Having long been intrigued by monastic cultures, I was enthralled by Hansen’s earthy depictions of life in both the German convent and in
From everything I’ve read about Hopkins’ story, Hansen diligently strives here for historical accuracy. The one exception is his anachronistic telling of the nuns’ story, which he elongates in order to culminate their story in parallel with
My one disappointment with this novel, and it is a significant one, is that Hansen could have developed
Despite my disappointment on this point, Exiles is well worth your time as a significant story from both literary history and church history.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
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